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Girl taken by father years ago to discuss plight with judge on Skype or FaceTime

Published 27/11/2016

Elsa Salama, now nine, is thought to be in Cairo (Quest Public Relations/PA)
Elsa Salama, now nine, is thought to be in Cairo (Quest Public Relations/PA)

A nine-year-old girl thought to be living in Cairo after being taken from her English mother by her Egyptian father nearly five years ago is set to discuss her plight with a High Court judge analysing her case in London via Skype or FaceTime.

Elsa Salama vanished in December 2011 after her father Tamer Salama, 41, took her from her mother Naomi Button, 43, while all three were visiting Egypt.

Ms Button, a leadership consultant from Leeds, launched family court action in England in the hope of getting her daughter back.

Mr Salama - a former teacher who lives in Manchester and has lived in Nottingham and Southampton, Hampshire - was jailed in January 2012 for breaching judges' orders to arrange Elsa's return to England or to reveal where she was.

He was released in December 2013 after a judge ruled that continuing to keep him in prison was no longer proportionate or justifiable.

Mr Justice Baker, the judge currently overseeing the litigation at hearings in the Family Division of the High Court in London, has been told that Elsa is thought to be living with her father's relatives in Cairo.

He says he intends to speak to the youngster personally via Skype or FaceTime when he next considers the case in the near future.

The judge, who has indicated that he wants to gauge the youngster's thoughts and feelings, said an Arabic interpreter would be needed because Elsa no longer spoke English.

Mr Salama has told the judge he can arrange for his relatives to make Elsa available.

The judge outlined his plan when overseeing the latest hearing in the case on Friday.

"Nearly five years have passed since this father removed Elsa, then four, now nearly 10, from her mother's care," said Mr Justice Baker.

"Enormous efforts have been made by the courts with the assistance of the media to try to restore the relationship between Elsa and her mother.

"Those efforts have so far been unsuccessful."

He said Ms Button had been in contact with her daughter via Skype - but not recently.

Mr Salama had said the youngster did not want to talk to her mother.

The judge said he intended to speak to Elsa - via Skype or FaceTime - personally.

"My hope is to be able to bring resumption of some form of contact with the mother," he added.

"This court has got to do something to try to change the situation."

Both Ms Button and Mr Salama - who were married but are now divorced - were at Friday's hearing.

Mr Justice Baker said Mr Salama had it within his power to bring about Elsa's return.

The judge said he thought Mr Salama's behaviour had been "disgraceful, manipulative and abusive".

:: Mr Salama failed in a bid to bar journalists from reporting the latest stage of litigation.

He said detail aired at the private family court hearing should remain private.

He complained that previous media coverage had been partisan and had not given his side of the story.

And he asked the judge to rule that nothing said at the hearing should be reported.

But Mr Justice Baker ruled against him.

He said the case had previously been reported as a result of Salama being jailed for contempt at a public hearing.

He said judges had made enormous efforts to reunite Elsa with her mother in recent years - and the media had assisted

He said on any view the case was in the public domain.

And he said detail could be reported.

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